NW IA lawmakers weekly newsletters
From the Desk of Representative Chuck Soderberg, Le Mars:
Week three of the 2011 Iowa General Assembly was filled with a number of committee meetings and floor debate in the Iowa House. Information on all the bills, amendments, and floor action can be found on the Iowa General Assembly web at: www.legis.iowa.gov.
Governor Branstad Unveils His Proposed Budget
Governor Branstad unveiled his budget recommendations in a joint assembly of the House and Senate on January 27th. One of the key provisions will be changing the budget process to a biennial (two-year) budget to give Iowans more predictability in budgeting and limit the growth in state government expenditures. The House Republicans have proposed HF 1 to reform the state budgeting process.
The Governor stated in his remarks, "I was handed a list of dozens of programs, 89 to be exact, that had been funded with money we no longer had. Everything from paying for teachers to state troopers had been funded with one-time money, nearly 900 million dollars' worth. Now, you wouldn't run your family budget that way. If you did so, you would soon be visiting the bankruptcy court. And we should never run the people of Iowa's budget that way, either. And with this budget, it will come to an end, now."
Governor Branstad continued, "The budget I present to you cleans up the budget mess that has been made. It sets Iowa on a new course with smaller, predictable, sustainable government, and that is nimble enough to respond to needs and small enough to stay out of the way of our job creators." Governor Branstad's budget proposes:
"$770 million of general-fund spending that was funded by one-time revenue is moved back into the general fund, where it belongs. The proposed budget matches ongoing spending with ongoing revenue and funds our commitments to schools, health care for the poor and elderly, and troopers.
"Nearly $160 million in direct property tax relief to Iowans. This is the amount the state underfunded K-12 by last year and required the tax payers to pick up the burden. The proposed budget fully funds the state's share of our school funding commitments, erasing the need for local school districts to make up the difference in property taxes.
"Position Iowa for job creation. Small businesses are the engines of our growth. Our small businesses pay an income tax rate of 12%. That is the highest in the nation. They also pay commercial property taxes that are as high as those in mid-town Manhattan. The proposed budget cuts the small business income tax rate to 6% and reduces commercial property taxes by 40% over the next 5 years. New investments will be immediately taxed at 60% of its valuation and the existing commercial property will be rolled back by 8% a year over the next 5 years.
"Reduce the size and scope of government, and budget for the long term. The proposed budget doesn't solve all our problems overnight but it puts us on a path of sound budgeting principles and we must resist the temptation to push our obligations to the next generation.
Requiring Voter IDs Protects Iowa Elections
On January 27th, Iowa is one step closer to having secure elections as the House passed HF 95 on a party line vote of 60-40. The bill now moves to the Senate for their consideration. HF 95 requires photo ID's for all voters including election-day registrants and in-person absentee voters. It also requires all voters to show a photo ID issued by the United States Government or the state of Iowa.
Typical US Government ID's include passports, military IDs, tribal identification, and federal employee cards. Proper identification issued by the state of Iowa would include driver's licenses, non-operator's licenses, or state employee badges. They must also have an expiration date and must not be expired or expiring after the most recent general election.
In order to aid voters in obtaining proper identification for voting purposes, certified copies of birth certificates will be available at no charge at all county recorder's offices as well as at the Iowa Department of Public Health. The requester must execute an affidavit saying they are requesting the copy of their birth certificate for voting purposes. The voter will then be able to go to the Department of Transportation and get a free photo identification card for voting purposes.
This is to protect the integrity of Iowa elections. Asking voters to provide proof of identity will ensure that only votes properly cast are counted. The bill provides for situations in which a provisional ballot would be proper and is modeled after Indiana's photo ID law. That law was challenged and eventually upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2008.
Allowing the People of Iowa Vote on the Marriage Amendment
On January 24th, the House Judiciary Committee addressed HJR 6, also known as the Marriage Amendment. The meeting drew a large crowd looking to express their opinions on both sides of the issue. The public is invited to comment on the Marriage Amendment during a public hearing on January 31st from 6:30-8:45 p.m. in the House chamber. The House is expected to consider HJR 6 next week.
The Marriage Amendment was drafted after the Supreme Court's decision in the Varnum v. Brien case. In that decision, the Supreme Court changed the Iowa Code to provide for marriage between people of the same sex, without approval from the legislature or the people of Iowa. The Marriage Amendment states; "Marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only legal union valid or recognized in this state."
HJR 6 is not just about marriage, it's about the rights of Iowans to vote on such an important issue. It should not be decided by the courts or the legislature alone, but by the people of Iowa. The process for Amending the Constitution takes several years and won't be finished before 2013. HJR 6 must first be passed by a majority of the House and Senate members. It would then require the Resolution to be voted on again after the next general election in 2012. If both the House and Senate approve the resolution again, the people of Iowa would be allowed to vote on this issue. If a majority of Iowans vote in favor of HJR 6, it becomes a permanent part of Iowa's Constitution.